By Tom Bevirt
It is my hope that these columns will inform our citizens about the workings of our city government now and especially for the past 12 years that I was honored to serve as your city council member at large (meaning entire city).
Ours is a city manager-mayor-council form of government. This means that the mayor and council hire a person to be a city manager who will run the day-to-day operations of the city.
The mayor and council are not to interfere with the manager or their job. They will review the manager's performance at various times during the year and make comments or recommendations.
The manager, when hired, will have a contract that is first reviewed by the city attorney. If it passes muster, it and the person is voted on; if they receive the majority of votes, they are then hired as city manager.
During the past eight years, we have not been successful with keeping managers. Before leaving, I made recommendations on how the mayor/council might better approach the hiring process.
This would include asking the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) for advice along with the Association of County Managers. The idea is to have a group of persons not from the city, but rather professionals who would review applications and make three recommendations to the mayor/council.
They would then conduct their own review of those three and choose accordingly. Bear in mind that the city can receive a large number of applications.
The job of the mayor is actually limited. The mayor does not vote except for the following: breaking a tie, votes for the city manager candidate, and several other issues that occur only occasionally. It is the council that passes on the vast majority of ordinances and resolutions.
In our city, we have five council members, therefore it takes three votes to pass on ordinances and resolutions. If the mayor vetoes an ordinance, the council can override with four votes.
There is some misunderstanding from the citizens about the role of the city manager. As stated above, the manager is responsible for the day-to-day running of the city. He/she hires or discharges department heads such as the Public Works director.
The mayor-council-manager system only works well when the manager makes these decisions without undue attempts at influencing the decisions. The mayor/council members are supposed to be part-time positions voted in or out by the citizens.
I can attest that it is more like a second job. The role of the elected members is one of policy making much like the Board of Directors for a medium-sized company. The exception is that a company cannot impose laws or taxes on a large number of citizens.
Therefore, their jobs are not only civic duty, but important, especially when you think about which government impacts your lives the most on a day-to-day basis (public safety, trash collection, water, zoning, etc).
Another misunderstanding happens when citizens fail to properly understand the role of all government institutions. During my time, we were constantly asked, "What are you going to do about the schools?" The answer is nothing.
The schools have their own elected board members who are responsible for all matters concerning schools. They collect the majority of taxes; cities collect the least. Nor does the city have anything to do with the fire department or matters not in the city limits. These issues are that of Cobb County. The county has its own elected persons.
This concludes this issue. The next column will expand on matters discussed above and point out issues that I was heavily involved with when on the council and before.